Scammers love the festive season – Popular scams and how to spot them

With South Africa still under a state of disaster until the end of the year and that state expected to continue in the new year, COVID-19 is still very much front of mind for many.

Unfortunately, that goes for the ne’er-do-wells of the world as well and the ongoing pandemic has presented a bounty of opportunities for scams.

In South Africa the Consumer Pulse Study published by TransUnion found that 35 percent of South Africans had been targeted by a fraud scheme in the last three months and five percent of respondents had fallen prey to fraud in the same period.

According to that report, the most popular fraud schemes used to target South Africans are:

  1. Third-party seller scam on legitimate online retail websites
  2. Phishing
  3. Account stolen
  4. Stolen credit card details
  5. Identity theft.

To add to this, Standard Bank has also noted a rise in digital fraud during the lockdown. While the bank has a multitude of security systems in place to protect its customers, there is still an onus on those customers to make sure they don’t fall for scams.

The top scams seen by Standard Bank are:

  1. Fake insurance
  2. Unemployment
  3. Third-party seller scams
  4. Phishing
  5. OTP vishing
  6. Smishing and SIM swap.

Note that vishing is the act of leaving a voicemail purporting to be from a bank in order to obtain an OTP or other personal and private information.

The fact that third-party seller scams are so popular is mighty concerning considering that it’s Black Friday week and the festive shopping season is upon us.

With that in mind, it’s vital to double check and possibly triple check everything you consider purchasing online. Check that the seller is legitimate and if you feel as if something is too good to be true, walk way.

Other signs that something could be a scam include:

  • The offer takes you by surprise, or the prize relates to a competition you never entered.
  • You’re given limited time to confirm your details or win the prize, catching you off guard.
  • You receive the information via a free email address (like Hotmail, Aim, Yahoo or Gmail).
  • You are promised large sums of money for very little or no effort on your part.
  • You’re asked to provide money upfront, for whatever reason, to receive the money or prize.
  • You’re asked to confirm personal or account details via a hyperlink, icon or attachment in an email or over the phone.

We also advise the following:

  • Make use of a good security solution on your computer and smartphone and other tech you use regularly.
  • Check the URLs of every link you click.
  • Read a retailer’s terms of service and refund policy before you make a purchase.
  • If you receive a voice message from somebody claiming to be your bank, use official numbers on its website to call the bank back and do not use the number left in the voicemail.
  • When in doubt, hang up the call and call the bank or institution back yourself.
  • Make use of virtual cards or gift cards where possible so as to avoid your credit card being compromised.
  • When in doubt, ask somebody for help.

Be vigilant and careful with everything you do this festive season and where possible, use online retailers that have a good refund policy or buyer’s insurance just in case the scammer is more wily than the rest.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]


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